We are now under 3 weeks away from the 2014 NBA Draft, and the Memphis Grizzlies, as I am sure you are well aware of, currently hold the 22nd pick, and they are faced with making a decision in regards to their approach for selecting that player. This pick will set the tone for how the rest of the offseason, whether it be trades or free agency, will play out. I'm going to break down three possible directions the Grizzlies will go in with their 22nd pick and the potential players that would fit the bill. (Note: I am only doing players that have a realistic shot of being available at 22. Yes, I know Jabari Parker would fit perfectly in Memphis, but allow me to guarantee you, he will not be there when the Grizzlies pick barring a trade.)
Direction 1: A Ready-Now Player
This direction, to me, seems to be the most likely of all three. The Grizzlies are a team that has talent and has proven that they can beat the monsters of the Western Conference and advance in the playoffs. The grit and grind core, as it's currently constructed, figures to have 3, maybe 4 good playoffs runs still in the tank; therefore, if a player is there at 22, and they can step in and immediately help the team, the Grizzlies should pounce on that opportunity.
Who Fits the Bill of a Ready-Now Player at Pick #22?
1.) Adreian Payne 6'10" 240 lbs. PF, Michigan State - With the threat of losing Ed Davis looming, the former Michigan State Spartan would make a great deal of sense at 22. Payne is incredibly long (7'4" wingspan), a very capable outside shooter (42% from 3pt range his senior year), and is ready to step in right away and contribute for any team that selects him.
2.) T.J. Warren 6'8" 220 lbs. SF, North Carolina State - Anyone who watch a single game this year in which the Grizzlies played in could tell you that Tayshaun Prince has no business starting for any NBA team. So, there is a need at the small forward position for a guy of the caliber of T.J. Warren. The 2014 ACC Player of the Year was a prolific college scorer averaging 28 points-per-40-minutes. Warren could provide the wing scoring threat that has been in such great need over the past several seasons in the bluff city.
NBA Draft Preview
NBA Draft Preview
3.) P.J. Hairston 6'5" 230 lbs. SG, North Carolina/NBADL - P.J. Hairston is another guy who could step in and fill a need for the Grizzlies immediately. That need? Shooting. It is not a forgone conclusion that Mike Miller, who was spectacular for the Grizz this season, will return for another year. So, there must be a 'plan B', and P.J. Hairston could very well be the guy. Hairston averaged 27 points-per-40-minutes while making 73 3-point shots during his time this past season in the D-League.
Direction 2: Development Player
The Memphis Grizzlies may feel that they can fill their immediate, pressing needs through other channels such as free agency and trades. This would allow them to draft a player who may not be a sure thing right away, but who may have a higher ceiling and could develop into a nice player down the road (e.g. Jamaal Franklin).
Who Fits the Bill as a Development Player at #22?
1.) Clint Capela 6'11" 222 lbs. PF, Switzerland - As we all know, Zach Randolph is in all likelihood going to sign his last NBA contract either this offseason or next. So, it is time to start thinking down the line a few years when that patented rock-em-to-sleep, step-back, fall-away jumper or the head down, ball cradled with both hands, running flip just isn't falling like it used to. When the time comes, the Grizz will need to have a power forward ready to go, if they expect to keep their same level of competitiveness. Clint Capela could end up being a very dominating NBA four-man. With a 7'5" wingspan and exceptional athletic ability for a man of his size, Capela brings very good natural talent to the table for coaching staffs to build upon. He has drawn comparisons to Serge Ibaka, and with the proper tutelage, the Swiss big-man could one day reach that ceiling.
2.) Elfrid Payton 6'4" 185 lbs. PG, UL-Lafayette - Elfrid Payton is one of those prospects that NBA scouts seem to be split on. Some say he's too out of control and that he will never develop into an NBA point guard; others, however, say with the right teaching and patience, he could end up being a Gary Payton/Rajon Rondo type of point guard. I tend to believe the latter, and the Memphis Grizzlies could be a situation where he could maximize his skill set. There would be no pressure for him to play early, and with the newly acquired Iowa Energy of the D-League, Payton could spend time in there honing his skills.
3.) Jerami Grant 6'8" 215 lbs. SF/PF, Syracuse - Jerami Grant is arguably one of the best and most explosive athletes in the 2014 draft class. At 6'8", he also has a 7'3" wingspan which gives him the ability to guard bigger taller players. The knock on Grant, though, is that he does not have a true position at the next level. His shooting ability is far too poor to play small forward, and he is not a high enough level rebounder to play power forward. However, there were similar positives and negatives (albeit at different positions) to current Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook coming out of college, and while it has taken the prolific scoring guard a few years to mature, he has developed into a perennial All-Star. Grant, like Capela and Payton, would need time to develop before he is ready to fully contribute at the NBA level.
Direction 3: Draft and Stash
This is by far the least glamorous and fun of the three options; however, if you look at a team like San Antonio who has utilized the draft-and-stash method throughout the leadership of R.C. Buford, one would be hard pressed to say it is not an effective method. Also, this option would allow the already cap-conscious Grizzlies to save a few dollars by not having to immediately pay a player who would stay overseas for another year or two (e.g. Jannis Timma).
Who Fits the Bill as a Draft and Stash Player?
1.) Kristaps Porzingis 7'0" 220 lbs. PF/C, Latvia - Porzingis is just 18-years-old, but he has already been exposed to high level competition playing in the Spanish ABC League. He has shown flashes of being an excellent stretch power forward with the ability to knock down 3's.The stereotypical European player is very fundamentally sound, can shoot from all over the court, and is lacking in athletic ability. This, however, is not the case with Kristaps Porzingis. He moves incredibly well for someone that is a legit 7 footer, and he uses his great athletic ability to be an above the rim type of player. He is not a guy that would immediately come to the US, especially, if he were drafted by the Grizzlies.
2.) Jusuf Nurkic 6'11" 280 lbs. C, Bosnia - Nurkic is a very similar player to current Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic. He has elite size and moves well for weighing just south of 300 pounds. Nurkic is a guy the Grizzlies could keep overseas for a season to see how the Marc Gasol situation played out, and even if Gasol stayed, they could bring him over for the 2015-2016 season to backup Marc if Kosta Koufos were to leave. Worst case scenario, Nurkic would be a valuable trade piece for a team with a need at the center position.
3.) Bogdan Bogdanovic 6'6" 200 lbs. SG, Serbia - Bogdanovic is a player who has been a good scorer everywhere he has been, averaging around 15 points-per-game. He shot 37% from 3 last season and has a knack for knocking down mid-range jumpers, as well as, getting to the rim. The Serbian is a player who could come over immediately and make an impact, or he could be kept overseas for a year or two giving the team time to sort out their cap situation. If the Grizzlies truly do covet Bogdanovic, they could trade back in the daft, or they could look to pick up an early 2nd round pick as he figures to be a late 1st/early 2nd round selection.
Editor's Note: Three possible directions and probably just as many possible people who could potentially be in charge of making the final call on the Grizzlies 2014 NBA Draft.